The chukor, a very familiar bird in the hilly and mountainous parts of Northern India, is distinguished from all other partridges by having no pencilling or streaking upon the upper plumage, which is also much greyer than in any of the others, in fact, often more grey than brown; the colour varies according to situation, the greyest birds being found in dry districts with but little cover, and the brownest in places where there is plenty of moisture and shelter. This is, in fact, the most versatile of all partridges in its choice of a habitat; as Hume says, "In one place it faces a noonday temperature of 150° F., in another braves a cold, about daybreak, little above zero: here it thrives where the annual rainfall exceeds 100 inches, and there flourishes where it is practically nil."
In its red beak and feet, the legs armed in the cock with a lumpy apology for a spur, its black necklace round a white (sometimes buff) throat, and the handsome vertical bars of black and brown on its blue-grey flanks, this bird at once recalls to mind its near relative, the " Frenchman," at home. It is a good big bird as partridges go, though very variable, hens being about a pound, while cocks may be half as heavy again. In the Himalayas it ranges up to 16,000 feet, being found in Ladakh, but is also found in the comparatively rich country of the southern hills, and ranges down to the Punjab hills and the barren rocky Mekran coast; but it is not found east of the Indus in Sind, and does not extend to Sikkim. In Kashmir it is known as Kau-kau, in Chamba as Chukru.
It is a sedentary bird, not wandering much from its chosen haunts wherever they may be situated ; and though grassy hills are a favourite resort, rocky, bushy ravines will also hold chukor, and they like the vicinity of cultivation, and often glean in the cornfields in autumn; jungle they entirely avoid. In winter quite large packs, even up to a hundred in number, may be met with, where the birds are plentiful, but in any case coveys are the rule at this season, though when breeding they pair off as usual. The cocks fight furiously in the breeding season, and are often kept by natives as fighting birds.
In high desert places they are very wild if they have been at all shot at, and give hardly any sport, but in the lower Himalayan hills they are far more easily accounted for, though they have the " Frenchman's" trick of running. They fly more strongly and sharply than our common partridges, and come downhill at a great pace if pushed up by dogs ; but they do not like rising after one good flight, and in such a case will often lie well when walked up. The native name, universally adopted by Europeans, is simply the bird's call, and it is very libera! with its note, especially when a covey has been scattered. The food of chukor consists of grain and other seeds, and often of insects ; they also take much gravel for digestive purposes. Old birds are dry and tough, but young ones good in autumn if hung; they may be distinguished by having black instead of red bills.
Chukor breed at any height in the Himalayas over 4,000 feet; in the Punjab Salt Range and the lower Himalayas they lay in April, but higher up the nesting may be deferred till three months later. The nest may be a mere scratching, or a pad of grass and leaves, and contain as many as fourteen eggs, or as few as half that number; they are yellowish white, peppered or spotted with brown, much like the eggs of the French partridge, in fact, as one would expect. Outside India the chukor is found in Tibet and the Thian-shan range, and east to China, west to Aden in one direction and Cyprus in the other; while the so-called Greek partridge (Caccabis saxatilis) of Eastern Europe only differs by having the face with a little more black, reaching to the corner of the mouth, in the eastern bird there is merely a continuation of the necklace beyond the eye up to the nostrils. The difference is unimportant, and the two birds are obviously races of one species; while in the really distinct west European, French partridge (Caccabis rufa) there is the definite distinction of a fringe of black spots outside the necklace-band.